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March 11 earthquake caused long-lasting stress in dogs

16 Comments
By Stephanie Pappas

Family dogs caught up in the Japan earthquake of March 11, 2011 and subsequent nuclear disaster at Fukushima showed signs of stress not inconsistent with PTSD long after the events, a new study finds.

The research compared abandoned dogs rescued from Fukushima with non-disaster affected dogs abandoned in 2009 and 2010, before the earthquake. The dogs that lived through the disaster had stress hormone levels five to 10 times higher than the dogs that were simply abandoned or found as strays.

"Long-term care and concern regarding the psychological impact of disasters appears necessary in humans and companion animals," the researchers wrote in the journal Scientific Reports.

As part of a dog-rehabilitation program at Azabu University in Japan, researchers took in eight dogs from shelters in Kanagawa Prefecture and measured their levels of physical stress by monitoring the stress hormone cortisol in the dogs' urine. After the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, thousands of refugees were forced to abandon their dogs. Many of the animals lived a semi-feral existence in areas made uninhabitable for humans by the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown that followed the disaster.

In May and November 2011, the Azabu University team took in 17 abandoned dogs collected at shelters and rescue centers in Fukushima. These dogs, like the Kanagawa canines, were rehabilitated and had their cortisol levels monitored daily. All dogs were later adopted by new owners.

When compared with the Kanagawa dogs, the Fukushima dogs were less aggressive toward unfamiliar people but also less attached to caregivers and more difficult to train. The disaster-affected dogs had five to 10 times the cortisol levels of dogs not touched by disaster, a gap that narrowed but did not close even after 10 weeks of loving care in the rehabilitation program.

The Fukushima dogs' handicaps in trainability echo learning problems in human trauma survivors with post-traumatic stress disorder, the researchers wrote. They suggested that similar brain chemicals could be at play in dogs and humans. Trauma-impaired humans can also struggle to bond with others, similar to the Fukushima dogs' lack of attachment to their caregivers.

The researchers warned that the samples were small and not entirely equivalent, with the Fukushima dogs being older, on average, than the Kanagawa dogs. Nevertheless, they found no evidence that age affected how dogs responded to abandonment, suggesting the disaster was the biggest driver of the dogs' stress.

"Humans affected by the disaster are already recovering and gradually returning to normal life," the researchers wrote. "However, our results suggest the possibility that stress can induce excessive, deep psychosomatic impacts with implicit behavioral manifestations, such as deficits in attachment and learning ability also in dogs."

© LiveScience

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16 Comments
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While this research may have a time and a place, and there are few chances to study things like this I am sure, couldn't the money be used in helping the humans that need assistance?

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Only dogs? what about the people affected by the radiation, tsunami, missing loved ones etc. In this country dogs are sometimes treated better than humans. Have you seen the pet graveyards? My goodness people spend thousands of dollars for their pooch but very little for their elderly.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

“Humans affected by the disaster are already recovering and gradually returning to normal life,” the researchers wrote. “However, our results suggest the possibility that stress can induce excessive, deep psychosomatic impacts with implicit behavioral manifestations, such as deficits in attachment and learning ability also in dogs.”

Experiments on animals bear no relation to what happens in humans.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Some people see dogs as a part of their family. Nothing wrong with that.

Based on this research, maybe the gov't will allow families to take their pets with them if they have to evacuate again. I, for one, would try my best to take my dog with me if I had to leave for whatever reason.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Good research. But I wish these researchers have helped us to predict earthquakes with animals. http://earthquakes-prediction.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-12-25T22:21:00-05:00&max-results=1 We are already half years pishim letters to various Japanese, American and others, but for some reason no one wants to help us save lives and children. Maybe it's just not profitable scientists seismologists?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Dogs? I hope no money was spent on this pointless research, people are still living in temp housing, they need the money!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

“We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.” — Albert Schweitzer, “The Philosophy of Civilization.”

4 ( +5 / -1 )

“We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.” — Albert Schweitzer, “The Philosophy of Civilization.”

Some cultures deify bovines, others eat them. Dogs are companions in some areas of the world and food in others. Which is right? And who decides?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Pointless "research".

The real tragedy regarding abandoned pets is that people actually abandoned them. I took my dog with me that day and got out of town with my emergency kit.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Oh no. The dogs are stressed. Oh no. Lets hope they can address their worries and not start crying for help by throwing themselves on the Yamanote.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I would have thought that Japan has other things to worry about than stressed dogs. Are these researchers getting taxpayer stimulus money for their stupid research?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

It's caused long-lasting stress in humans too.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

maybe if both the humans and the dogs weren't abandoned. One mentally, the other directly

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Few cold folks on here today, both man & dogs are mammals so not surprising both are affected by 3/11, I know both myself & my dog were, both still are. While my dog wasnt abandoned he was pretty traumatized & since 3/11 always tries to stay nearby 24/7

I wud say shoganai it was a nasty quake which I bet is still affecting lots of posters to this day perhaps more than they realize!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"nearby 24/7"...He should try 7/11. If theres another big one he can stock up before theyre cleared out.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm an animal volunteer up in Fukshima, and can vouch that this research is right on the dot. All of the animals that come in, dogs, cats, birds, are all suffering greatly, even after they've been rescued from the Hell that is the exclusion zone

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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